Comics / Cult Favorite

Comic Book Stores: Don’t be THIS Guy

By Philip Schweier
February 17, 2012 - 18:49

Recently I visited a small comic book store which brought to mind an issue (pun intended) that many shops deal with, and deal with poorly: lack of adequate space.

The comic book audience is a niche market, and because it is so narrow, stores are often forced to make do with very little, which is quite the challenge when faced with the volume of stock that most stores carry.

One of the downfalls of comic book stores is that they are often run by people who are or have been collectors themselves. As a result, they often feel that anything comic book-related should displayed. Nevertheless, I would suggest to them that it’s long past time to take down that sun-faded poster for Infinite Crisis in the front window.

The real crisis is all around you, in the over-abundance of merchandise that sadly goes nowhere. Sure, you might think Frank Frazetta posters are a natural for a comic book store. But this isn’t 1979, and thanks to the advent of the Internet, Frazetta posters are an even narrower market.

Not only do comic book stores have decades of back issues to with which to contend, they also have all the merchandise that goes along with it: toys, videos, statues, posters and all manner of collectibles. And not just for comic books either. Many stores branch out into cross-pollination of genres, such as James Bond, Star Trek and the Simpsons and all their rich histories.

What I have seen is incredibly poor management of stock that borders on the ludicrous, often leading to cluttered shops that look more junky than inviting and make me question the merits of buying an item, even if it costs only a dollar. How mistreated has it been while in this store, because the owner insists on packing a lot of crap in with it?

One store in Florida has all its back issues packed neatly into long boxes as any good comic book store should. But the problem arises when they are packed so densely it is impossible to flip through the contents of each box. I could only grab a random handful of issues, hoping to be somewhere in the vicinity of the back issue I was searching for. When I had missed the mark, replacing the books without damaging them became an even greater challenge. I had to pull the entire box out and tip it up on its end, allowing the weight of those still in the box to create enough space for me to slip them back into place.

Another store in New York did the same thing, but with the boxes themselves. If a long box measures 30 inches, the aisle measured 30 and a half inches, allowing you to pull the box out from beneath the shelf where it was stored, but allowing no room to actually search through it.

In California, I felt one store had the potential to have what I was searching for, as it had a number of Superman issues from the early 1970s. Action Comics from the same era? Well, that was a different story. At the time I was two issues shy of completing that collection, but that title lay buried under boxes of new comics, posters and other clutter that the shop owner clearly had no idea what to do with.

Store owners, I know you have invested a great deal of money into the merchandise you carry, but when it becomes clear that you no longer have room to hold all this stock, it’s time to stop investing and start clearing out the stuff that doesn’t sell. If nobody shows interest in more than a year, it’s time to get rid of it. Have a fire sale, use it as a free promo for purchases over $50, sell it on ebay or find a wholesaler willing to give you a fair price for the lot.

Of course, fair is in the eyes of the beholder. One might think that they want what they paid for it, plus the expense of storing it for a length of time. GET REAL! In this current economy, if someone offers you money for something you haven’t been able to sell any other way, TAKE IT! Financially speaking, nobody can continue to do business the same way they were five years ago and hope to survive. It’s a different market these days. Holding on to merchandise that you hope someone... some day... MIGHT be willing to pay your price isn’t doing it business, it’s stockpiling.

The name of the game is to sell your stock in exchange for money, for whatever the market will bear. But clearly the market needs to be defined as “your immediate customer base.” Which means you can’t apply 2006 price structures, because you’re not selling to people from six years ago. It’s not like they’re traveling through time. Also, this means that what it sold for in Dallas means nothing if your store is located in Chicago.

So if you have something for $10 and it’s not selling, lower it to $9, and then $8, and keep on lowering it until it’s gone. And DON’T replace it.

Clearing out a lot of the valueless merchandise in a store will weed out a lot of the clutter. Instead of a junk store that sells comic books, that an average mother is leery about letting her 13-year-old son enter, you might end up with a tidy, junk-free comic store that parents will enjoy visiting as well.

Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? E-mail me at

Last Updated: December 31, 2019 - 20:28

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